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CHEAP RIDE: MORE TOWNS LET GOLF CARTS PUTTER ABOUT

ST. LOUIS - With two GEO Trackers, a Lexus, and a pickup truck, retired coal minder Bob Woll has many ways to zip around his southern Illinois town to visit friends, the fairgrounds or the frozen custard stand. These days, he prefers his electric golf cart. "There's no noise, no checking the oil or how much gas you've got. You just get on and go," said Woll, a 67-year-old alderman in Sesser, Ill., who helped pass an ordinance permitting golf carts to ride on the streets.

Sesser is among dozens of communities across the country responding to $4-a-gallon gasoline by allowing vehicles best known to country-club duffers to roam the streets as a cheaper, cleaner alternative to cars and trucks. The 20-year-old cart Woll bought for $300 gets 20 miles on a 10-hour charge.

Twenty-six states, from Maine to Oregon and Wisconsin to Georgia, allow the use of low-speed electric vehicles on local streets, or give towns the power to make that decision, according to Jim Reed of the National Conference of State Legislatures. While there are no estimates of just how many golf carts on the nation's roads, communities increasingly are signing off on them.

Circleville, Ohio, officials voted last month to allow carts on city streets with posted speed limits of 35 mph or less, with the stipulation that they're titled, insured and modified to be street-legal. At lease 40 Wisconsin communities, including Milwaukee, Madison and Racine, permit the carts on their roads, and more are considering it. And in Illinois, three communities in Iroquois County, bordering Indiana, allow residents to drive carts.

Fuel efficiency isn't the only reason golf carts are being touted by municipalities. In Bremen, Ohio, sheriff's deputies say they make it easier for officers to interact with the 1,200 locals. And in the St. Louis suburb of Pine Lawn, Mo., the police chief said 15 mph golf carts are less intimidating to the public. At her Critters Golf Carts store in Woodstock, Ill., northwest of Chicago, Shirley Forman says her sales have been supercharged. She normally sells 60 to 70 carts a year, but has sold at lease 128 already this year. "It's really turned around," she says. In most towns, carts allowed for street use are required to have a sign denoting them as slow-moving vehicles or tall orange flags that easily can bee seen by motorists. They're generally not allowed on sidewalks. In Sesser, residential golf cart users must have liability insurance and pay a $35 fee.

Many states require a golf cart's operator to have a valid driver's license. And while South Carolina requires that the carts have a state permit, most other states don't require registration for street-use carts, said Nick! Farber, a research analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures. Sesser is looking to buy a used golf cart for the water department, figuring it's be more convenient for meter reading than constantly jumping in and out of the pick-up truck. "This maybe would save us about $600 to $700 a year in fuel just for the water department," Woll said.

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Reprinted from www.news.yahoo.com, August 6, 2008

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